What’s Happening The Other 23 Hours Of The Day?

What’s Happening The Other 23 Hours Of The Day?

Rehearsal Is The Key To Success

The way to success in becoming a star athlete or a master criminal is achieved in the same way. The more a skill or behavior is rehearsed the better and more natural it becomes. So often dog parents may come to you wanting to change a dog’s behavior. Of course we are interested in the behavior at hand, but we should be even more interested in what is happening the “other 23 hours of the day”.

What's Happening The Other 23 Hours Of The Day?

Having tunnel vision by focusing on the unwanted behavior isn’t enough. We’ve got to look at what is happening behind the scenes at all of the rehearsal time before the curtain goes up. A pro-golfer is likely to practice other calisthenics to improve his game and I’ll bet your clients dog has his own version of cross-training, too. It reminds me of Mickey, the inventive trainer in Rocky. Mickey had Rocky chase chickens to find a new and more agile way of becoming quick on his feet. Somewhere when you aren’t looking, the pup has invented his own technique for getting the result he desires.

Let’s say you feel like your client’s dog is unnecessarily barking for attention and you are at your wit’s end with this. First, we’ve got to figure out when and where else this behavior is being reinforced. Does he get practice barking away “intruders” like the UPS man or a neighbor dog being walked by the window? Although you might not be directly rewarding the pup for this action with a cookie, just the act alone of the “trigger” going away can be the reward itself to the dog. “I bark, and it goes away”, thinks the pup. “Success!” The repetition of this story is in itself a rehearsal. In turn, the rehearsal of the behavior gets stronger and more habitual. The behavior will eventually become second nature for the dog.

As a professional dog trainer even I get stumped sometimes. Imagine my astonishment when I saw my dog, Dexter with his paws on the kitchen counter! I racked by brain trying to figure out where he had learned this behavior. How had he been rewarded, and where was this rehearsed? After a week of question and observing him like a hawk, I saw him jumping up on the gate in the back of my van to gain a better vantage point. That was it! If it worked for him in the van, he’s bound to “learn” it will work for him in the kitchen. Because animals are such excellent problem-solvers they can piece together the puzzle through masterful trial and error learning. This can make the pup both clever and sly quickly, but it’s also why they are so fun to shape and train.

If the rehearsal of behavior is the key to success, then eliminating or, at least, minimizing the opportunity for the unwanted behavior is the way to begin. Common sense tells us that we aren’t going to keep the UPS guy from coming to the door, or keep other dogs out of our neighborhood, but what we do have control over is what our pup rehearses.

Let’s imagine that I am a master car thief with years of practice. Although I’ve been successful for years, one day I get pinched. I go to jail. I’m kept from practicing my craft. If one day my sentence is up, and I return to society without rehabilitation (learning a replacement behavior) I’m likely to fall back into my old ways to achieve success with my desired result. Moral of the story: If you prevent the villain from rehearsing the behavior while rehabilitating (teaching them alternative actions and behaviors), then they are much less likely to go back to their old crime.

So how do you prevent the pup from repeating bad behaviors? I teach and reward the “opposite” behavior or a DRI (Differential Reinforcement for Incompatible behavior). With barking, for example, I teach and reward a quiet cue. For jumping, I teach and reward a solid “down” or a “belly up” behavior. We should work to reward an appropriate behavior rather than starting by punishing the inappropriate behavior. We must also keep in mind those other 23 hours in the day.

Addressing the time when the dog is alone or not around us is important. For example, you can recommend crating the pup while leaving upbeat music playing to drown out sounds from outside to prevent perimeter barking. Employing simple preventatives, such as making sure the pups are well exercised and left with a food-stuffed toy to keep them engaged, can prevent them from rehearsing old behaviors.

Dogs will always be rehearsing behaviors. It’s up to us to teach and reward the behaviors we want rehearsed. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.

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3 Approaches to Teaching Loose Leash Walking

3 Approaches to Teaching Loose Leash Walking

loose leash walking

Loose leash walking.  *insert ominous music*  Sometimes teaching loose leash walking to clients can feel like the bane of every dog trainer’s existence.  It’s not that the skills needed are difficult.  No, it’s the consistency and patience that are required that can make it so tedious.  So, as a modern dog trainer, what are some ways you can help teach loose leash walking to your clients?  Here, we’ll examine three videos that may be of benefit.

“Polite Walking On Leash” by Ines Gaschot

loose leash walkingThis first video shows how starting simple can make such a big impact.  Ines starts on the porch with her dog, Loker, simply clicking and treating for a loose leash while working in a small, relatively low distraction location.  Ines illustrates how to increase difficulty via distractions and duration of behavior.  She then does some troubleshooting for forging and offers alternative ways to reward dogs (changing up treat delivery, sniffing breaks, etc).  She offers helpful tips at the beginning and end of the video.  This video is fantastic due to its simplicity.  It will be easy for your clients to grasp this concept and put it into play, even after you are gone.

“Clicker Training Loose Leash Walking” by Casey Lomonaco

Casey’s approach to loose leash walking is to emphasize the placement of treat delivery.  Careful and consistent treat placement means the dog learns that being beside the owner is a Very Good Place to be.  She starts slow, just standing in one place.  She then begins pivoting 90 degrees each time to encourage the dog to start moving into position.  After the dog is confidently doing that, she begins taking large single steps, changing direction frequently.  To introduce longevity into the loose leash walking, Casey uses the “300 Peck” method.  By the end of this short video, her puppy, Cuba, is politely offering loose leash walking even though he is off leash.

“How Do I Teach My Dog Not To Pull On Leash?” by Kevin Duggan

Kevin takes a different approach from the two videos above.  His method is incredibly useful for dogs that aren’t as food motivated, or dogs that are in a highly distracting area.  He teaches the dog that all forward movement stops if the leash gets tight.  He then turns and goes another direction (“penalty yards”), teaching the dog that pulling towards a desired object actually makes it go further away.  Kevin uses his voice as praise a great deal, some treats, and also a toy that his dog desires.

 Conclusion

These videos all are highly simple and effective even though they use three different methods.  Your clients will all have different learning styles, so being able to offer them several options for teaching this skill will ensure they have success.

What other methods do you like to use to teach your clients loose leash walking?

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5 Uses For Crates During Training

5 Uses For Crates During Training

crating during training

Many clients are averse to the idea of crating their dogs.  Being able to explain to them how crating can help their dog’s training progress may open them up to the concept.

Housetraining

Crating can be of immense benefit when it comes to housetraining a dog, regardless of age.  It keeps the dog confined to a relatively small space, keeping them from being able to roam and squat wherever they desire.  Feeding the dog in the crate makes housetraining go even faster as most dogs will not go to the bathroom where they eat.  Obviously it is important to stress to your clients the importance of taking the dog outside on a regular basis.  Also, be sure to emphasize that crating is not to be utilized 24/7, but only when the dog is not able to be immediately supervised.

Settle

Crating can teach a dog that it’s okay to relax.  Starting with very small amounts of time, clients can put their dogs in a crate with something yummy to chew on.  Doing this consistently can teach the dog that good things happen in there and it’s okay to relax and settle down.  This can be helpful at times when visitors are coming and going or the dog just needs to be out of the way for some reason.  Having a dog that will settle in its crate can be a great management tool.

Home Base

Group classes are a great time to utilize crating.  When you are talking and your attendees need to listen, they can put their dog (who knows that settling in a crate is a good thing!) in the crate so they can focus on you.  The crate can also act as a home base for the dog when things get stressful or he just needs a break.  Or make a training game of it – have your client do some work with the dog and then they and their dog can run to the crate together and throw a party when the dog enters.

Separation Distress/Anxiety

Separation distress/anxiety can be a nightmare to deal with, but crating can sometimes help ward it off.  If your client’s dog has learned to associate the crate with Very Good Things, and has learned that its crate is used for settling in and relaxing, it can help the process of treating the separation anxiety.  It is also useful to prevent a dog from pacing back and forth from window to window and barking at people/animals passing by, thereby keeping their stress levels elevated.  Crating can encourage the dog to just relax and sleep or work on a chew toy.  Note: Separation anxiety can be dangerous for the dog – if you are not confident in your ability to recommend a course of action that will keep the dog safe during training, please refer your client to somebody who is!

Preparation For Emergencies

Nobody ever wants a tragedy to occur, but sometimes they do.  What happens if your client’s dog gets sick and has to spend the night at the e-vet?  If the dog isn’t accustomed to crating, it can get incredibly stressed out, hindering treatment.  If you and your clients live in a location with natural disasters that might prompt evacuation, having a crate trained dog can make it much easier to find a place that a client can go with their dog.  Or even something as basic as your client wanting to take a vacation – dogs that are not accustomed to crating are more likely to panic in a kennel setting.

Crating responsibly can be incredibly beneficial to your clients’ progress in training their dogs.  Being able to explain the usefulness may open some otherwise closed minds.

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How To Structure An Open Enrollment Dog Training Class

How To Structure An Open Enrollment Dog Training Class

How To Structure An Open Enrollment Dog Training Class

Open Enrollment Dog Training Classes

Open enrollment dog training classes are a big leap from traditionally scheduled and planned classes, but the conveniences they provide to our students are outstanding! Many students are looking for convenience in their classes and this concept can be a delightful change in your class schedule.

Set Up An Orientation Time For New Students

Orientation time can be a separate class time (for example: orientation is each week on Mondays at 6:00 p.m.), 15 – 30 minutes before each class, or a film a video you can send to new clients to watch before class. During orientation, cover topics such as clicker basics, classroom philosophy, and housekeeping items.

Create Your Schedule

Determine how often you want the class to “roll over” or begin again. Make a list of topics you want to cover in a typical series and how many classes it takes to include all of them (my classes “roll over” every six weeks).  Also determine how many times each week you will offer the same class, adding to the flexibility factor of this structure.

Be Prepared To Have Students At Different Levels

Open enrollment classes mean that potentially every student in your class could be at a different level on the same exercise. Be prepared to address these different levels. Using the three D’s (duration, distraction, and distance) is helpful in preparing your classes to address the different needs of students at different levels.

Make Flexible, Open-ended Lesson Plans

Having flexible, open-ended lesson plans for each class gives you direction and purpose. It will make each class session more productive if you have goals set ahead of time.

Educate Your Current And Potential Students

Remember, this may be a new concept to your students, too! Explain your new class structure, outline the benefits, and show them how this will the flexibility will suite their needs.

Give It Time To Work

We have taught traditionally planned and scheduled classes for a long time. It’s going to take some time for you and your students to get used to this new concept. Give yourself time to settle into this new routine, but make sure your plan is clear to your clients to avoid miscommunication.

Comment below if you run open enrollment dog training classes and what you think of them!

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Interacting Professionally With “Traditional” Trainers

Interacting Professionally With “Traditional” Trainers

Interacting Professionally With "Traditional" Trainers

Interacting Professionally Online and In-Person With A Variety Of Dog Trainers

Traditional trainers (those who introduce physical corrections into their training of some sort)  are as passionate about their training methods as force-free trainers are about their methods.  Unfortunately, this can often cause confrontations when the two types of trainers come together, either in person or via the internet.  Arguing is stressful and non-productive, so what are some options for gracefully handling these interactions?

(As an aside, the vast majority of traditional trainers are not interested in arguing and being rude to force-free trainers – this article is to help when dealing with the small minority that revel in being hostile.)

Turn The Other Cheek

Often traditional trainers start slinging around names and insults to rile up force-free trainers.  Though it can be frustrating, you should try to ignore this.  On the other hand, take the higher ground and do not reciprocate by throwing derogatory terms and names back at them.

Don’t Get Pulled In

Sometimes the easiest option is to walk away.  If you know that you are not going to be able to retain your composure whilst discussing your side, give yourself the power to remove yourself.  Getting riled up is not going to affect the other person.  It will simply make you miserable and possibly reflect badly on your reputation.

Agree To Disagree

Often you just reach a point in conversations where the discussion is going in circles.  Your mind is not going to change and neither is their’s.  At this point, agree to disagree.  Continuing the conversation is going to accomplish nothing other than to annoy you and waste your time. Ending the conversation this way will preserve your sanity and reputation.

Know Your Facts

Before getting involved in discussions, make sure you know your facts.  Be prepared to cite books, articles, and other reputable resources that show the power of positive reinforcement.  If you are confident about your training methods and why you use them, having the resources to back up your arguments will be helpful.

Above all, remember that positive reinforcement works for people, too.  So often, force-free trainers are so passionate about their techniques that they get riled up and lash out when challenged.  Arguing will not change minds.  Use your personal dogs and the dogs you train as good examples of the power of force-free training. Always keep in mind that everyone is working towards the same goals, you are just pursuing different pathways to get there.

What do you recommend for interactions with traditional trainers who want to argue?

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Private Sessions Or Group Classes?

Private Sessions Or Group Classes?

Private Sessions Or Group Classes?

When new clients contact you, generally the first thing you will be asked about is classes you offer.  Most people don’t even think about private training.  Knowing whether to guide your clients in the direction of classes or private sessions will help your clients get the most bang for their buck.

Reactive/Fearful Dog

Though there are some incredibly well-run “Reactive Rover” type classes out there, for dogs that cannot be in the same building/vicinity of other dogs or people, classes can just be too much and there will be little to no benefit.  Help the client get a solid foundation on the dog through private sessions. If the dog and owner have zero foundation skills, they will struggle in a group class setting.

Young And/Or Untrained Dog

Beginner Obedience classes are probably the most utilized class out there, but are they always the best option?  So often, the massive distraction of other dogs and people all combined make it difficult for a young or untrained dog to focus on their owner.  Doing even one or two private sessions before putting a dog into a class can make a monumental difference in their ability to focus and benefit from the class.

Owner Needs Special Attention

There are some clients that, for a myriad of reasons, would benefit from one-on-one instruction.  Putting an owner like this into a group class just wouldn’t be fair or beneficial to them.  This type of owner craves your full attention which cannot be provided in a group class setting. Spend some time with them in private sessions so they can be confident in their abilities before you transition them into a group class.

Specific Training Issue

If you have a client that has attended group classes and continues to have problems getting his/her dog to do a certain behavior, a private session may be in order.  This will enable you to focus all of your attention on them and see what the problem may be so you can help them fix it.

Household Issues

Housetraining, intra-household dog aggression, cat/dog issues – many of these are problems that can’t always be solved in a group class.  These often require you to go to a client’s home and help them enact feasible management while they work on behavior modification.

What other times do you recommend private sessions versus group classes to your clients?

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